Food blogs and bloggers have become a new staple of online foodwriting. They are everywhere, but bloggers themselves are still struggling to gain legitimacy...
A few high profile bloggers have parlayed their visibility into book deals, such as Former Chez Panisse Pastry Chef David Lebovitz, Pim’s Pim Techamuanvivit and recently, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. A few more have been able to go into blogging full-time such as Gim. Still others have turned food blogging into a full-time writing career , such as Carly Fisher of Chicago Brunch Blog who now blogs for NBC Chicago.
However, these bloggers are the exception. Phil Lees, of The Last Appetite and a Wall Street Journal contributor, wrote on his site: “I briefly made a living from my blogs alone but this was because I was living in one of the world’s poorest nations…”
Questions continue to pop up about how “professional” a food blogger really can be. After all, some say, they don’t have the ethical auspice of an established brand to hold them to standards. The truth is, established sites like Yelp, Chow and Eater are taking big steps to establish the “lowly” food blogger as an invaluable part of the food industry hierarchy. Even independent bloggers are becoming more and more important as a resource for the food hungry and curious. Bloggers might be vying for respect with established media outlets, but they are certainly here to stay.
I guess I'm one of those independent "lowly" food bloggers. I blog as a personal discipline that connects me in generative ways to the community and the world. It's been a place where I've learned to be a better writer. I'm still not a good editor but at least now I'm horrified by typos and misplaced apostrophe's whereas before I didn't really care. It's been an integrative space for me to use my photography. It has been a living business card that has opened up opportunities to share a message that I think is important. Most of the high profile platforms I have been given, from the New York Times to PBS to NPR, have opened up because of the blog.
Someone asked me recently for advice on how to increase readership for their blog. I don't think that's the best question to start with in blogging but if you're interested, my advice is as follows;
- Post something almost every day. If you go through a dry spell without posting don't get all apologetic about not having posted in awhile. Just get to posting again.
- Take note of what people respond to the most on the blog – what do people comment on, what posts get the most views (you’ll want to use Google Analytics to help understand what people are reading most). Having said that, I post stuff that may not be as popular simply because it’s important to me. Don't just be a page view counter. Write about things that are important to you and a community will emerge as you connect with others.
- Try to craft catchy headlines. I’ve found that I can write a great post but if the headline isn’t provocative it doesn’t get nearly the readership. But make sure the headline is accurate and true.
- Pictures always add to the pleasure of reading a blog, and better yet pictures you’ve taken. I am in the habit of taking my camera with me and I have sort of created my own stock photo library to draw on. Stock Exchange is a good source of free stock photos – make sure they aren’t so big a file size they slow down the site.
- Twitter has helped a lot and I recommend it as a way to raise visibility of posts and even more than that, a way to find interesting blog post material. Open a twitter acct and “follow” people who share similar interests in your region and the issues you write about on the blog. They’ll likely follow you back and help spread the word about the blog. Have a link on the blog for people to follow to Twitter. You can link Typepad to Twitter so that it automatically posts your blog posts to the Twitter feed.
- Ditto the above for Facebook. Make sure people have the ability to "Like" individual posts and the whole blog on Facebook.
- Always respond to comments people make, even if just to say thanks.
- While surfing the web bookmark web sites and web articles you find interesting so you can come back and post about them.
- Make sure you’re accurate and that you don’t mind whatever you write being attached to you for the long haul. The web lasts forever.